With the UFC throwing four different events in August, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this weekend’s UFC 163 pay-per-view event is considered a bit top-heavy. The card has a solid one-two punch, with featherweight champ Jose Aldo defending his strap against Chan Sung Jung and a light heavyweight co-main event between former champion Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis, but outside of the two headlining bouts, this has to be considered one of the weakest cards in recent memory.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely the UFC’s fault. When this card was first announced a few months ago, the promotion stocked it with a legitimate blockbuster of a main event between Aldo and top lightweight contender Anthony Pettis, along with an intriguing welterweight battle between Demian Maia and Josh Koscheck. With those two fights, along with the Machida-Davis bout, the card wasn’t mind blowing, but it still offered up enough intrigue to get fans excited for the UFC’s return to Brazil. Then the injury bug hit and the UFC has struggled to hold together another crumbling fight card.

Pettis getting injured was a massive blow to the event. Had the main event remained intact, it’s quite possible that no one would be complaining about this card. With Aldo and Pettis squaring off, fans were promised a rare fight between two of the elite strikers in the entire sport. Now that Pettis has been replaced with Jung, we’re forced to hope an exciting fighter like “The Korean Zombie” can survive long enough to make sure we get an entertaining main event.

On top of losing Pettis, the UFC was also forced to pull Demian Maia from the card when Josh Koscheck went down with an injury a few weeks ago. With most of the top welterweights already tied up in other bouts, there was no logical opponent for Maia to fight on short notice and therefore the BJJ expert ended up getting the night off.

The loss of two major fights on the main card has crippled this event, but it does provide an opening where a few fighters that don’t usually get their share of the spotlight can try to make an impact on Saturday night. Opening up the main card is a flyweight fight between rising prospect John Lineker and UFC newcomer Jose Maria Tome. Considering how shallow the 125-pound division is at the moment, this could end up being a fight with major title implications.

Lineker has bounced back from a disappointing UFC debut loss to Louis Gaudinot at UFC on Fox 3 last year to score back-to-back victories in his last two bouts in a flyweight division that only has a baker’s dozen of guys on the roster. An impressive three-fight winning streak could be enough to earn the young Brazilian a shot at division kingpin Demetrious Johnson, especially if Lineker is able to finish in style this weekend. Still, a showcase fight for a rising flyweight prospect doesn’t exactly get people fired up. Luckily, the injury bug actually worked to the UFC’s benefit for this fight and the promotion secured the services of Jose Maria Tome on short notice.

Lineker’s original opponent was scheduled to be Phil Harris, a British MMA veteran with a 1-1 record. Harris is a quality fighter, but he would have had a hard time defeating Lineker in front of a partisan Brazilian crowd. That won’t be the case for Tome, a fellow Brazilian with a ton of experience heading into his UFC debut. Tome has amassed a rock-solid 33-3 record on the Brazilian regional scene over the last nine years. He’s a finisher in the truest sense of the word, taking out his opponent in all but five of his 33 career wins. Although he lacks Octagon experience, fighting on his home soil in his UFC debut can only help Tome in trying to erase the jitters, and he should be a really good test for a rising star like Lineker.

Sadly, outside of the sleeper bout between Lineker and Tome, there isn’t really another bout on the main card to get excited about. Former title challenger Thales Leites returns to the Octagon after spending a few years on the regional scene, but he’s been thrown straight back into the middle of the pack in the middleweight division. His opponent, Tom “Kong” Watson, is a good fighter that has a steadily growing fan base, but the fight still means relatively nothing in terms of middleweight contendership. Stylistically, Leites and Watson make for an interesting strategic fight, but they aren’t likely going to be pushing for “Fight of the Night” honors when the evening’s fights are over and there’s not a whole lot of intrigue surrounding this match-up.

The same could easily be said about the last main-card fight between Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira and Thiago Santos. Both fighters are probably a bit more popular in their native Brazil due to their time spent on the Brazilian version of The Ultimate Fighter, but for the PPV-buying audience around the world this fight doesn’t offer much. Santos is making his UFC debut after earning mediocre results on his season of TUF earlier this year, and Ferreira is making his return to the cage after winning the inaugural edition of TUF Brazil last summer. In the future, maybe we’ll have a reason to care about these guys, but at the moment their names mean nothing to the average MMA fan.

Based on the strength of the top two bouts alone, this card is still going to be worth the hard-earned money of many MMA fans, but there’s no denying that UFC 163 has been severely damaged by injuries. Losing fighters like Pettis, Koscheck and Maia would cripple almost any fight card, but the UFC still delivered with a solid one-two punch at the top and an under-the-radar flyweight fight that has show-stealing potential.

With UFC 164 also set for a pay-per-view spot later this month, it wouldn’t be surprising to see fight fans decide to pass on this weekend’s event. However, that would be a mistake. Even without a few of the high-profile fighters that were supposed to compete, UFC 163 still has enough intrigue to make it worth the cash.

Photo: John Lineker (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.